More Bad News For Beer?

BeerRestaurant operators as much as anyone know that beer sales have been fluctuating in a way unseen for decades. Reliable premium American brews have lost luster, imports are up and down, and crafts, while increasing dramatically, offer a wild and ever changing array of selections that can make the average consumer’s head spin.

So keeping in tune with micro and macro trends makes sense, though the takeaway can sometimes be confusing. Take the just-released Alcoholic Beverage DemandTracker, a periodic survey of US adults aged 21 and up who consume some type of alcohol at least once a week. As could be expected, the survey shows that beer continues to lose ground as consumers’ favorite beverage. But inside the gloom is the news that some consumer groups are getting more attuned to the beer experience.

In the September survey, 39 percent of alcohol consumers named beer as their favorite category, with wine at 30 percent, spirits at 28 percent, flavored malt beverages at four percent, and hard cider at one percent. Compared to September 2012, beer has lost two percentage points at the expense of other categories, according to Consumer Edge Insight, which created the survey and tracks consumer preferences along a range of products.

Beer’s share loss is driven by men – the majority (51 percent) still call beer their favorite beverage alcohol category but that’s down from 54 percent the same time in 2012. Meanwhile, beer is getting more popular among women – 26 percent named beer their favorite alcoholic beverage in September 2013 vs. 24 percent last year. Not big growth, but the way beer has been trending, good news is where you find it.

Women were also more likely than men to say they were drinking more beer due to “finding new brands” (39 percent of women versus 36 percent of men) and “finding new flavors” (38 percent women, 31 percent men).

Beer took its biggest hit among 21-27 year olds (33 percent called beer their favorite versus 39 percent in 2012) and 35-54 year olds (down from 47 percent to 41 percent). Yet older drinkers age 55 and above are increasingly beer-friendly – 38 percent this year said beer was their favorite, compared to 31 percent in September 2012.

As Consumer Edge Insight president David Decker points out, while there is some good news when it comes to growing market segments, there is also cause for real concern about the habits of beer’s traditional sweet spot – men under 30. The major reason given by 21-27 year olds when asked why they are consuming less beer – 39 percent said they are “getting tired of the taste of beer.” Ouch!

“Our latest consumer research reveals some serious warning signs but also a few bright spots for the beer industry,” said David Decker, President of Consumer Edge Insight. “While the category is seeing a decline in affinity among the two groups of consumers that the beer industry has long-considered its primary targets, men and 21-27 year olds, the good news is that the beer category is seeing gains among the two groups that it has long-struggled to reach, women and older drinkers. However, the lower per capita alcohol consumption among females those who are age 55+ means that the beer industry needs to keep working hard to restore the strong affinity to the beer category among men and young adult drinkers.”

Data for this Alcoholic Beverage DemandTracker was collected in September via an online survey of more than 2,000 US consumers, age 21 and over, designed and weighted to be representative of the US adult alcohol-drinking population.

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